If you were to chisel out an offensive tackle from granite, it would probably look similar to Andrew Thomas. The first things you notice about Thomas are his impressive size and long arms. Once you get a chance to watch Thomas play, you are more impressed with his movement skills and superior technique for such a young player.
Thomas is only 20 years old and doesn’t turn 21 until January 2020 yet he has exceptional skills because he has had superior coaching throughout his young life. To his credit Thomas has used that coaching, worked hard and made himself into a remarkable talent, possibly the highest rated offensive lineman in the 2020 NFL Draft. His immense size (6’ 5” 320 lbs) combined with his underlying skillset have made him a premium prospect. He was ESPN’s #40 national prospect coming out of high school.
His high school coach at Pace Academy was Chris Slade who was the 31st overall selection in the 1993 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. Slade was a consensus All-American LB at the University of Virginia in 1991 and 1992. He played 9 years in the NFL. Slade was an All Pro in 1997. He ended his career with 142 games played, 665 tackles, 53.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, 27 passes defended and 2 TD returns.
As an outside rush LB Slade was able to give invaluable coaching to a prospective left tackle prospect like Thomas. Teaching him counter moves to rush techniques from opposing DEs/LBs allowed Thomas to incorporate and learn a counterattack to offset their reprisals. Learning such advanced methods in high school allowed Thomas to develop his pass protection proficiency much quicker than other prospects. He came to Georgia with a leg up on others at his position but still was raw in some areas and in need of further coaching from an expert at teaching offensive linemen.
Enter Sam Pittman, the assistant head coach and the Georgia offensive line coach. Pittman just looks like an offensive line coach, someone Dave Gettleman would call a “Hog Mollie.” Pittman is widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in college football. He was an NAIA 1st team All-American at Pittsburgh State in 1986 and was inducted into the PSU athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. He started coaching offensive lines in college back in 1991 coaching a a community college in Hutchinson, Kansas. In all he has coached at 12 schools including Oklahoma 1997-98, Tennessee 2012, Arkansas 2013-2015 and Georgia since 2016.
In Many cases Pittman moved on when the head coach was let go, but his lines at Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas and now Georgia were all considered exceptional. Football Outsiders has Georgia rated #6 to this point in the year.
Thomas has used all that expertise to develop into a top prospect. In 2017 he was named to Freshman All America teams by ESPN, USA Today and the Football Writers Association of America. He started all 15 games as a true freshman at right tackle. In 2018 he was named to SI.com’s All America First Team, the Associated Press’ and Walter Camp’s All America Second Teams, the coaches’ All-SEC First Team, and the Associated Press’ All-SEC Second Team. He started 13 games.
This year he has started every game.
Let’s see what Thomas has done this year against some SEC competition. These first few clips are from the Florida game where he went up against an assortment of different players.
This first GIF is against #17 Zach Carter who is a 6’4 263 lbs rush OLB. Watch the foot movement and the lateral agility for a 6’ 5” 320 lbs Thomas.
This is a 3rd and 1 read option play that is run to the opposite side of Thomas. The DE/OLB is playing a full gap outside Thomas’s outside shoulder. Thomas doesn’t have to make a great block on the play since it is headed away from him, but that doesn’t stop him from doing his job anyway. He moves his feet well and controls the edge well while keeping his man away from the play.
Sometimes you can learn as much about a prospect on a play away from him as you do on a play right at him. In this case Thomas doesn’t loaf. He gets his feet moving quickly, uses a wide base while keeping his hands low, and explodes into the chest of the OLB.
You would think that a player who is 6’ 5” 320 lbs would be just a mauler, using his size at all times to try and crush his opponent. Yet there are times when finesse is the best course of action. It shows the player is smart using his brain along with his brawn. This play is designed to be run inside the right shoulder of Thomas. Most players who are Thomas’s size would use that heft to smash the DE on the play.
Yet Thomas realizes that the player going against him is a 6’ 3 263 lbs rush LB who is much quicker than himself. So Thomas lets the OLB do the work for him by letting him run himself out of the play. Thomas gives him a little shove and then turns to shut the door on the OLB from the play. If Thomas had engaged the OLB he would have muddled the hole. By clearing the way, the RB has the room to avoid the possible tackle in the hole and make his way for a 30 yard gain. This is just a nice overall play.
The next play is a what is called a T/E line stunt. It just means that the tackle is going to fake going inside, shooting outside while the DE runs behind him and attacks from the inside If the tackle were to go behind the DE with the DE leading, it would be called a E/T line stunt.
The Jets have had problems with these stunts all year. To be honest, this is not stunning execution by the defense. The stunt is slow with a severe lack of power, but look at the technique of Thomas on the play. He slides left, then back right keeping his knees bent in good position to set his anchor against a bull rush. His hands are out in front of him and low so he can use them to explode into the defender’s chest to slow his progress. You can see at the end of the GIF that Thomas has full extension on the big DT and has plenty of anchor against his power.
On this next play Thomas is supposed to clear the edge for a play that looks to be a huge gain with no player on defense to stop the RB. You see Thomas quickly comes out of his stance then moves to the outside shoulder of the DE to get leverage to the inside on him. The DE is a monster 6’ 7” 311 lbs player who can see the play the entire way.
Unbeknownst to Thomas, the CB to his left is blitzing on the play so the wide open edge closed quickly, and the RB is forced to cut the play back inside, right into the hole Thomas is blocking his DE into. Yet since Thomas has his hands inside with a good hold, the DE cannot break away until after the RB is by him. Thomas ends up pushing the behemoth a good 3 or 4 yards downfield before the DE breaks free. The end result is an 11 yard gain on the play and a first down.
This next GIF also shows impressive movement skills by Thomas. He is asked to make a reach block on the DT who is heads up over the guard. Not only does he have to come another gap over to make the block. He needs to get to the inside shoulder of the DT on the play being run to right.
Since Thomas is in tight quarters and moving quickly to his right, he is unable to get in good blocking position so he lacks any real power on the play. Yet the block is sufficient to keep the DT away from the play, and the RB finally squeezes through the line and into the end zone. You want your LT to have great feet and this is an example of that exact skill set.
This next GIF is a RPO (run/pass option) play as Thomas is down in a three point stance with his man in a wide 7 or 8 position which is a distance to travel to make a block. If this was a straight pass play Thomas would have been in a two point stance to keep the DE from racing by him and to the QB. Fortunately the defense is two gapping (read and react) which allows Thomas more time to get outside and make a block.
You can see that no one on the defense is trying to penetrate. Instead they are just holding their gap responsibilities. Thomas is allowed to get in perfect position with a strong wide base and a solid anchor, controlling the defender with his arms fully extended far away from his QB. It is another solid job all around.
This last GIF is a compilation of three different pass rushes that Thomas is able to handle fairly easily. The first is a full speed bullrush from the 2nd level that Thomas is able to stone and control with a solid anchor, strong punch, good hand strength and position inside the defender’s chest. The second is another bullrush from a larger man with more power, but Thomas again has a strong base and is able to control the rusher’s pads with his strong hands. The last player tries the hit and spin move to no avail. Thomas keeps him centered at all times, and the spin takes away all his power.
Thomas shows an impressive skill set along with a sculpted body. He also shows great awareness to stunts and blitzes. He rarely makes a glaring mistake. He is more of a gap/ power player than a zone blocker at this point in his career, but that is not to say he would fail in that system. He just lacks experience in zone concepts. He is a work in progress on hitting moving targets on the second level, but many big men have that trouble even 10 year NFL vets.
The one thing that troubles me about Thomas is the lack of game action against a quality edge rusher. Thomas has great feet, but how quick is his slide step? Can he adjust to a skilled player with counter moves?
There are no Von Millers in the SEC, but if Georgia can make it to the college playoffs maybe we could get a peek at Thomas against Chase Young from Ohio State. That would intrigue me quite a bit.
The year is only half over in college football, and there are a lot more games to be played. There is also plenty of scouting to do. This is just a preliminary report with more to follow. As it stands now I think Thomas has a good chance to go in the top ten of the 2020 Draft, but like I said this is all contingent on him continuing his stellar play while improving all his techniques.
Thomas is only a junior. Tony Pauline said he has been told that Thomas will definitely declare for the Draft without. Still he could have a change of heart so we will have to wait for his official announcement.
Thomas has a quality skill set and fine technique for a college player. He does not have quality NFL technique as of yet. but as he gets more coaching and more experience I am confident he will continue to improve. He has proven to be very coachable. Let’s hope he is able to take quality coaching from his Jets coaches.
(See what I did there?)
(Yeah, you did.)
What do you think?